Parents of Gays briefly became POLAGM – (Parents of Lesbians & Gay Men) & ultimately PFLAG (Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays). My suggestion to the PFLAG board one year to follow our course of reflecting inclusion in our organization’s name was to call ourselves PFLABAGASTER – Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Bisexuals & Gays & Sometimes Transgendered. They didn’t go for it.
My mother, Willy Jump, first marched with me at the National Gay & Lesbian March on Washington in 1979, of which I was part of the planning in 1978 in Philadelphia as representative of Gay People at Queens College. We went backstage to meet some of the National POG parents and NYC parents, Amy Ashworth being the woman my mom was drawn to immediately since they look like sisters (and later became as close as sisters). I also met the British gay rock & roller Tom Robinson, with whom I became pen-pals for a year and later visited in London in 1980.
1980 was my Mom’s first NYC Gay & Lesbian March. I had been marching with my girlfriend from John Adams High School, Elaine Calenda since 1976 (the Bi-Centennial Summer of Love). I told my mom to meet me on the corner of Bedford & Christopher Streets an hour before the march actually begun it’s illegal lurch uptown towards Central Park- thinking it wouldn’t be that crowded yet. I’m not sure when the first legally obtained permit for the march was but it was a march until it became a parade.
So here I am looking for my Mom amongst the throngs of leather queens, drag queens, dykes on bikes and twinks screaming, “MOM! MOM?” on a nearby lightpost that I had climbed up. Almost immediately this handsome older guy with an impish smile and a little space between his teeth came up to me and tugged my pantleg shouting over the din in an incredibly coarse voice that seemed incongruous to his appearance – putting his fingernail up to his mouth to hide his incredulity- “You really aren’t looking for your MOM but some big queen you call MOM – right?” No- I said, slowly realizing to whom I was responding. “I really am looking for my Mom.”
Then in rapid fire breathy dragon voice that sputtered like a typewriter on steroids – “OH MY GOD! If my mother would just even acknowledge my being gay let alone come march with me! COME MARCH WITH ME? I could just die right now and go to heaven. Do you know how lucky you are? I have to meet this WOMAN! MOM! MOM! MOM!”
And almost as soon as he had appeared , so did my mother “Hi Frankie. Who is your friend?” “This is the infamous Harvey Fierstein” I proudly exclaimed (“Points! Points! You are scoring here Harvey raspily whispered”)- “and this is my mother, Willy Jump,” I continued. Harvey grabbed my mother around the neck and planted a wet one on her cheeks.
Coincidentally, the two of them would run into each other for the next decade at LGBT events and panel discussions. I ran into Harvey repeatedly over the years from book signings to rides on the subway while he was going to the theatre to perform Torch Song- to spotting him on Parade floats – always with a warm greeting “HOW’S YOUR MOTHER?”
Harvey! Mother is fine! She says hello!